Sunday, August 31, 2008

Putting Gender First

Ronald Reagan wrote this about his (successful) bid for re-election:

But I think Mondale made a serious mistake when he picked Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate. In my view, he guessed wrong in deciding to take a congresswoman that almost nobody had ever heard of and try to put her in line for the presidency.... I don't know who among the Democrats might have been a better choice, but it was obvious Mondale picked Geraldine Ferraro simply because he believed there was a "gender gap" where I was concerned and she was a woman; I don't think they picked the most electable woman.

Reagan was decrying the identity politics he recognized in formulation of the Democratic ticket in 1984. And Joe Conason notes that The National Review in August, 2004 editorialized

The Democrats will attempt to project the issue as 'whether a woman can be Vice President,' a point the Republicans can cheerfully concede, returning to the question of whether this woman in particular should be the Vice-President ... Mrs. Ferraro is manifestly an affirmative-action nominee. She has been in the House only since 1979 and cannot be said, on the record, to be as qualified to be President, if necessary, as, say John Glenn, Fritz Hollings, Mo Udall, or -- George Bush.

Twenty-four years later, on August 19, 2008, another icon of the conservative movement, Rush Limbaugh, declared

To me, it is striking how unqualified Obama is and how this whole thing came about within the Democrat Party. I think it really goes back to the fact that nobody had the guts to stand up and say "no" to the black guy. Liberal policies are always going to end up strangling liberals, too. I think this is a classic illustration here where affirmative action has reared its ugly head against them. It's the reverse of it. They've ended up nominating and placing the top of their ticket somebody that's not qualified, who has not earned it. It's perfect affirmative action. And because all this guilt and the historic nature of things, nobody had the guts to say, "Wait a minute, do we really want to do this?" They do it, and then they start behaving in manners and ways that let us know that they know that they've goofed up with the choice. It actually has been somewhat fascinating to watch.

The Repub Party has created a cottage industry out of assailing affirmative action. Until Friday, August 29, 2008. That was the day that conservatives, who have made a cottage industry out of ridiculing affirmative action as "political correctness," began to praise the selection of Sarah Palin as the Vice-Presidential nominee of their party. This is Kenneth Blackwell, chairman of the Coalition for a Conservative Majority and former Secretary of State of Ohio (the state which discouraged 350,000 persons from voting for president in 2004 and so delivered the election to GW Bush.): “I think John McCain showed that he is ready to break through some of the glass ceilings that have existed in our political system with somebody that is principled and experienced." And Rush Limbaugh himself contended

It happens in the Republican Party. I knew that it would be the Republican Party that first had a woman who works at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.... They're attacking women. What's going to happen here is, ladies and gentlemen, the Democrat Party and their accomplices in the Drive-By Media are going to attack women when they start attacking Sarah Palin....Who's got the woman on the ticket, Ed? Your party or McCain's party? And Ed, you are a Democrat.

Michelle Malkin, George F. Will, Jonah Goldberg, William Kristol, Laura Ingraham, and Fred Barnes, who wrote "As a 44-year-old woman, Mrs. Palin adds desperately needed diversity to the Republican ticket." The list of conservatives who have praised this selection of someone unqualified reads like a who's who of pundits which previously couldn't contain its criticism of the Democratic Party for welcoming qualified women and minorities.

This is clearly not putting "country, first." It is hypocrisy, above and beyond what one has come to expect from the Grand Old Party.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Quote Of The Week

"When McCain says 'Country First,'- this country? Is that what he's talking about?"

Bill Maher on "Real Time With Bill Maher," August 29, 2008, regarding John McCain's selection of the inexperienced Sarah Palin as running mate
More Palin

Two do not make a pattern. Still....

In her coming out speech on Friday in Dayon, Ohio, Sarah Palin boasted

I championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. In fact, I told Congress — I told Congress, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ on that bridge to nowhere. If our state wanted a bridge, I said we’d build it ourselves.

Thanks to thinkprogress.org, we know a little about the veracity of that statement. When Mayor Palin was interviewed by the Anchorage Daily News during her campaign for governor in 2006, she stated

Yes. I would like to see Alaska's infrastructure projects built sooner rather than later. The window is now--while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist.

She was, it appears, supportive of the bridge when it looked like money would be coming from the federal government, then changed her tune when Congress rejected funding- almost the opposite of what she claimed when she appeared with McCain in Dayton, Ohio.

It gets worse. On Friday, Pat Buchanan told Chris Matthews on Hardball that Palin "was a brigader in 1996 as was her husband, Chris, they were at a fundraiser for me, she's a terrific gal, she's a rebel reformer." Bad enough- but the Mayor reversed herself the next day, for McCain-Palin spokesman Michael Goldfarb explains

Governor Palin has never worked for any effort to elect Pat Buchanan -- that assertion is completely false. As Mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin did attend an event with Mr. Buchanan in her home town where reports described her wearing a Buchanan for President button. She wore the button as a courtesy to Mr. Buchanan and in an effort to make him feel welcome during his visit, but immediately sent a letter to the editor of her local paper clarifying that the button should not have been interpreted as an endorsement of any kind.

And even worse. ABC's Jake Tapper notes in his blog, The Punch, that Goldfarb states that in 2000, Palin supported neither Buchanan, Bush, or McCain, but rather the "Empower The Rich" (made up, but accurate) campaign of Malcolm Forbes Jr. (name not made up). Tapper says

And indeed, another AP story from August 7, 1999 -- one month after the Buchanan trip to Wasilla -- states that joining state sen. Mike Miller of Fairbanks on the Forbes campaign's Alaska "leadership committee will be Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin, and former state GOP chairman Pete Hallgren, who will serve as co-chairs."

Dishonest, two-faced, or simply a sharp politician. It's still fewer than 48 hours since the announcement and there is no telling what we're going to learn from the person John McCain wants us to believe is a credible vice-presidential candidate.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Presidency: Serious Business, To Obama

I never commented on this controversial appearance by Hillary Clinton before the New Hampshire primary, which she (narrowly) won. The controversy resulted not from her words- which I thought significant- but by her apparent weeping, which I (and no one else) thought was rather insignificant. I was never (and still am not) sure whether her expression of sorrow was sincere, but believed then that her words were insightful.

And I believe that even more this afternoon, now that John McCain has chosen first-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. On that cold (winter in New Hampshire- it must have been cold) day in January, the New York Senator, eyes reportedly tearing up, said

Some people think elections are a game, lot's of who's up or who's down, [but] it's about our country , it's about our kids' futures, and it's really about all of us together.... some of us are ready and some of us are not, some of us know what we will do on day one and some of us haven't thought that through enough.

The inference about lack of experience was reputedly a slap at Barack Obama, while I believe the reference to "some people think(ing) elections are a game" was a knock on his supporters.

This was, I think, Clinton at her strongest- contrasting her experience with that of Obama. And I always had the impression that Mrs. Clinton and her supporters- in contrast with many of the supporters of the Illinois Senator- recognized the great stakes involved: not change, not history, not the amorphous "yes, we can," but rather the presidency of the most powerful nation on earth.

So what on earth was John McCain doing choosing to be a heartbeat from the presidency an inexperienced governor from a state practically bereft of agriculture, urban problems, or ongoing budgetary issues, arguably the most remote (geographically and otherwise) political jurisdiction in the country?

He was selecting someone he believes whose gender will appeal to disaffected female Hillary C. supporters; an individual as far away from evil Washington, D.C. as possible to reinvent the myth of McCain the Maverick, a guy dedicated to change; a right-winger to secure his base; and a politician who already has begun putting into effect his energy theme of "drill, drill, drill." Not putting "country first."

But not somebody who is remotely qualified to be President of the United States, if something tragic happens to the 72-year-old man who appears to forget from moment to moment what he thinks about any given issue. Pundits are asking whether John McCain has given away his most potent argument, that his adversary lacks the experience necessary for the highest office in the land. And this too is clear: the ticket, Obama-Biden, headed by Barack Obama now is the adult option. Only John McCain could have made this happen.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Why Not McCain?- 3

John McCain and the mainstream media are unabashed enthusiasts of John McCain's "straight talk." Here is YouTube video of some straight talk the campaign of the Arizonan (that is where most of his homes are) is reluctant to publicize. Thanks go to smitheus of dailykos, who credited the site's blogger paulVA . He writes that he was at this April, 2006 union conference and apparently the video was only recently made available.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_jMmiiWsdQ&NR=1)

Here is the transcript of the remarks:

John McCain: "I don't think I need to tell you that there are jobs that Americans will not do. I don't think I have to tell you that there are ... the backbone of our economy...
Audience members: "Pay them the right wages."
John McCain: "You know I've heard that statement before. Now, my friends, I'll offer anybody here fifty dollars an hour if you'll go pick lettuce in Yuma this season and pick for the whole season. So, ok, sign up! Ok, when you sign up, you sign up, and you'll be there for the whole season, the whole season, ok, not just one day. Because you can't do it, my friend."


Though field hands don't work a 9 to 5 schedule, five days a week, 50 weeks a year, we'll use those numbers to add some perspective. Forty hours a week at fifty dollars an hour would be two thousand dollars a week. Figure in the fifty weeks a year and you make $100,000 a year, paltry to a man married to someone worth nearly $100 million as chairwoman and heiress to a beer distributorship, but awfully good for most of us.

And lest we forget: this contempt for the American worker is coming from a fellow who believes that $5,000,000 barely qualifies an individual as "rich," an advocate of a guest worker program, and one of the two primary Senate sponsors of "comprehensive immigration reform."
Quote Of The Week

"The choice in the election is clear. These times require more than a good soldier. They require a wise leader."

-Senator Joseph Biden in his vice-presidential acceptance speech on 8/28/08, contrasting John McCain and Barack Obama
Race And The Vote

Jacob Weisberg in slate.com has written a provocative article entitled "If Obama Loses Racism is the only reason McCain might beat him." Weisberg contends

If you break the numbers down, the reason Obama isn't ahead right now is that he trails badly among one group, older white voters. He does so for a simple reason: the color of his skin.... His defeat would say that when handed a perfect opportunity to put the worst part of our history behind us, we chose not to. In this event, the world's judgment will be severe and inescapable: The United States had its day but, in the end, couldn't put its own self-interest ahead of its crazy irrationality over race.

There is so much wrong with this argument. But for now consider just this: discussion of the impact of race upon this election- and the fight for the Democratic nomination- invariably has centered upon the tendency of whites to vote against the black candidate, for the Caucasian candidate.

This is an important phenomenon to consider- but the (I would think) obvious corollary is this: to what extent have blacks been inclined to vote for the black candidate over the white candidate? According to the CNN Political Ticker of May 6, 1998, this is the percentage of the African-American vote garned by Obama in various states: Georgia, 89%; Ohio, 87%; Pennsylvania, 90%; North Carolina, 91%; Indiana, 92%. And little has changed as the general election looms: Rassmussen reports that as of August 13, 2008, Obama is supported by 93% of African-American voters in North Carolina.

There always has been a racial component in American elections. No one would, or at least has, criticized the overwhelming black vote, in both percentage and turnout, for Obama. But to conclude simultaneously that white people are motivated primarily by race, that John McCain can win only because of white racism, or that consideration of race is exclusive to Caucasians is not only narrow-minded but also inaccurate.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Republican Media- No. 18

It had to happen; it was just a matter of time.

As Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania was about to give his speech on Tuesday, 8/26/08, in Denver, MSNBC's Chris Matthews voiced the lingering myth about Casey's father, the late Robert Casey Sr., former governor of Pennsylvania. Matthews claimed that the elder Casey had been denied a speaking role at the 1992 Democratic Convention "largely because he took a pro-life, or anti-abortion, position."

If it were only Matthews, it would not be so bad- or surprising, given his penchant for saying whatever, insightful or ridiculous, springs to his mind at any moment. But here is a passage from a recent on-line article, "Both Sides Reach For Center In Abortion Debate," in The Daily Transcript, "San Diego's Business Daily:"

Democratic officials also gave a convention speaking slot to Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa., who opposes abortion rights. His father, the late Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, was denied a coveted slot at the 1992 convention because of his opposition to abortion rights.

So many figures in the media, in their zest for caricaturing the Democratic Party as beholden to pro-choice activists, misrepresent reality. In an article (currently unavailable) entitled "Casey Closed" which he wrote for the 9-16-96/9-23-96 issue of The New Republic, Michael Crowley wrote:

According to those who actually doled out the 1992 convention speaking slots, Casey was denied a turn for one simple reason: His refusal to endorse the Clinton-Gore ticket. "It's just not factual!" stammers James Carville, apoplectic over Casey's claims. "You'd have to be idiotic to give a speaking role to a person who hadn't even endorsed you."

And Crowley quotes the late Ron Brown as stating, and later writing in Campaign for President: The Managers Look at '92:

We decided the convention would be totally geared towards the general election campaign, towards promoting one nominee and that everybody who had the microphone would have endorsed our nominee. That was a rule, everybody understood it, from Jesse Jackson to Jerry Brown. The press reported incorrectly that Casey was denied access to the microphone because he was not pro-choice. He was denied accesss to the microphone because he had not endorsed Bill Clinton. I believe that Governor Casey knew that. I had made it clear to everybody. And yet it still got played as if it had to do with some ideological split. It had nothing to do with that.

The Democratic Party gave a prime-time speaking slot on the second night of its convention to a self-described supporter of the pro-life position. Now ask yourself this: How many times has the Repub Party granted a similar opportunity to someone opposed to tax cuts for the wealthy? Perhaps John McCain eight years ago- but now that it is politically opportune, he has reversed his position- and in 2000, he spoke as a candidate for the party's nomination, unlike Casey at this year's Democratic convention.

The mainstream media might concede that its party of choice, the Repub Party, adheres to a litmus test on income taxes. But it won't happen.
Why Not McCain?- 2

When John McCain was asked by Rick Warren at the recent forum at Saddleback Church to name the "three wisest people" he "would rely on heavily in an administration," he named General David Petraeus, whom the Senator appears to idolize; Representative John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement, who found the plug puzzling; and Meg Whitman, the former
CEO of eBay and one of his economic advisers. McCain gushed

Meg Whitman, Meg Whitman, the CEO of eBay. Meg Whitman, 12 years ago, there were five employees. Today, they're 1.5 million people that make a living off eBay in America, in the world. It's one of these great American success stories. And in these economic challenges times, we need to call on the wisdom and knowledge, the background of people like Meg Whitman, who have been able to make such a great success such as eBay part as the American folklore.

This is not the first time McCain has canonized eBay, which has transformed an "incredibly inefficient market for junk and turned it into a very efficient market for junk," according to Lehman Brothers' Ethan Harris, quoted in perrspectives.com. But as Betsey Stevenson of the Wharton School of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania has explained, "in terms of jobs, there's no net increase in GDP that comes from trading stuff that's already made. New people selling stuff out of their closet on EBay isn't growing the economy."

That explanation, however, did not suit Mr. McCain, who is a very slow study when it does not benefit his political prospects. We now can better understand the comment McCain made while he was campaigning in January in Livonia, Michigan for that state's primary, when he claimed it

wasn't government's job to protect buggy factories and haberdashers when cars replaced carriages and men stopped wearing hats..... (and we should avoid raising) false hopes that somehow we can bring back lost jobs.

Primary voters in Michigan rejected McCain, recognizing him as callous, indifferent to middle-class jobs with benefits. Stevenson notes

In terms of jobs, there's no net increase in GDP that comes from trading stuff that's already made. To trade things that are produced in other countries just to swap them.....(conveys a message) that America can't produce anything and that's a very dismal view of the U.S. economy.

But John McCain, oblivious to the importance of Americans producing things, for ourselves and for others, is a true believer in the restorative effects of free trade: n of buying as much as possible from other countries, with the Midwest- and ultimately much of the rest of the country- drowing in the abyss of a dangerous trade deficit. The workers themselves, however, have an option- they can always buy and sell on eBay and forget about their pensions, health care, and the economic security of their families.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Saint McCain

Did you hear the one about Al Gore inventing the Internet?

Of course you did, probably several times- although the former Tennessee Senator never claimed credit for founding the Internet. It all started with an interview on CNN's "Late Edition" on March 9, 1999 when Gore responded to Wolf Blitzer's query as to why Democrats should support him over challenger Bill Bradley:

During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.

Gore did spearhead Congressional efforts to advance the Internet and never did claim to create it. But did you hear the one about John McCain creating the "Do Not Call " telemarketing registry?

He did invent the DNC (I couldn't resist using the initials) list, according to his policy paper, "Ensuring the Personal Security and Privacy of Americans in the Digital Age," released on August 14, 2008. In it we read of the claim

2003 – McCain led in creating the FTC's “Do-Not-Call” telemarketing registry to allow consumers to opt out of receiving telemarketing calls. And, when the law was challenged in court, McCain led the effort to ensure that it was upheld.

But as Peter Swire, blogging at the wonk room of think progress.org, points out:

This claim is hilarious for those of us who work on these issues. FTC Chairman Tim Muris announced in October, 2001 that the FTC was going to do the Do Not Call list. Yet somehow McCain magically caused the Do Not Call list in 2003. And, given the independent agency status of the FTC, it is a stretch to say that “McCain led the effort to ensure that it was upheld.”

The presumptive Repub presidential nominee makes in this technology paper other claims which are at best very misleading. But have you ever heard any of this from the mainstream media? Hardly, and for only one reason- it's John McCain, he of the mythical, yet legendary, "Straight Talk Express."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Considering The Vice-Presidency

Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, who once spoke favorably about Barack Obama, is a little confused.

The Associated Press has reported that Pawlenty, long believed to be on John McCain's short list for the Vice-Presidential nod, on August 23 said Obama selected a 'mentor,' "showing a lack of experience for the nation's highest post." Pawlenty claimed

It seems that his rhetoric has been around change, there needs to be change in Washington and he has used for his political advantage this concept of the need for Washington outsiders. Then when he has one of his first big decisions, he chooses the consummate Washington insider, which I think is noteworthy.

Apparently, Timmy hasn't been paying attention. On July 27, Obama said of his upcoming decision on a running mate "I'm going to want somebody with independence, who's willing to tell me where he thinks or she thinks I'm wrong."

When Obama on August 23 announced his selection of Senator Joseph Biden, it showed a few things about the fellow from Illinois: 1) he was telling the truth on 7-27-08, which in a President would be a welcome change from the past seven years; 2) he is would be willing as President to have someone around who will tell him when he's wrong, a welcome change from the past seven years; and 3) he believes that we should have a Vice-President lacking a dangerous obsession with secrecy, a welcome change from the past seven years.

It may be difficult for a governor from a party which has given us probably the worst President of modern times, and which wants a reprise of the last eight years, to understand, but Barack Obama decided that it would be useful for not only the Democratic Party but also the country to have as first in succession to the Presidency someone qualified and ready to take on leadership.
Why Not McCain?- 1

So many reasons, and so little time before the election. But I wanted to start cataloguing the reasons election of Senator John McCain to the presidency would be disastrous. Today, a foreign policy item.

Responding to the Russian invasion of Georgia, Senator McCain, according to the New York Sun on August 12, 2008, asserted the previous day in a televised statement from in Erie, Pa.:

This should be unacceptable to all the democratic countries of the world, and should draw us together in universal condemnation of Russian aggression...Russian President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin must understand the severe, long-term negative consequences that their government's actions will have for Russia's relationship with the U.S. and Europe.

Tough language, indeed. Perhaps a little reckless? Nah- he was only joshing, as we saw when McCain backtracked at a news conference in Birmingham, Michigan the following day (as reported in a piece entitled "McCain Rules Out Military Action Against Russia:):

I don't think we're going to reignite the Cold War here with Russia.... I think this is a very serious situation but I don't see it as a return to nuclear standoffs, etcetera, etcetera. I want to have a dialogue with the Russians, I want them to get out of Georgian territory as quickly as possible and I'm interested in good relations between the United States and Russia.

Usually it takes the Arizona Senator at least a couple of days to reverse himself on policy. But here it's a little different- bluff and bluster, then backing down. Being unrealistically aggressive, and then foolishly taking military action off the table- both dangerous extremes from a guy who typically seems not to think much before he talks. And this on McCain's supposed strong point, foreign policy!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Veep Selection

It would have been seen as a fiasco, if only it were one-quarter as important as the Obama campaign and the media made it out to be this past week. I received my text message at 3:17 a.m., two hours and 32 minutes after CNN, and three hours and 19 minutes after the Associated Press, reported that Joe Biden had been selected as Barack Obama's running mate; four hours and 27 minutes after Jake Tapper noted that the Secret Service had dispatched a team to protect Senator Biden; approximately eight hours and 7 minutes after Andrea Mitchell reported on Hardball that the other two individuals (Tim Kaine and Evan Bayh) on the short list had been told that they were not being selected, and roughly a day and a half after most pundits had predicted Biden would be the nominee.

Quite a secret. Fortunately, the choice itself will probably prove much wiser than the new-age plan to announce the decision that the Obama campaign so vainly devised. We have variously heard that Biden has a great family and a great family story; rides the train home every night to his family; has a son (Beau) who soon will be deployed to Iraq (albiet in the JAG Corps); is the least wealthy member of the United States; is beloved by the (i.e., white) working class; will win votes in New Jersey (unnecessary) and Pennsylvania (useful); is a great orator and splendid debater; is a choice which will please the Clinton camp; has the gumption to attack McCain when appropriate; is a foreign policy expert; and is a very experienced in government and politics generally.

There is one electoral consideration that has received less notice than the others. South Florida. Biden is a kind of candidate who will appeal more to the elderly than has Obama. And he has the reputation for support of Israel that the presumptive presidential nominee lacks and which is of particular concern to non-young Jews. (The narrative that B.O. has problems among Jews, I believe, is misunderstood by the media, because his support is strong among young Jewish voters.) Thus, Florida, which otherwise should go for McCain in a close election, becomes more winnable as a result of the Democratic vice-presidential selection. Which is more than what happened in 2000.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Surprise! McCain Does A 180

Rarely does a week go by that we don't learn of another issue on which John McCain now takes a diametrically different position than he did when the other was politically advantageous. Now the Jed Report has found a video of an interview Larry King did with John McCain in January, 2001:

http://www.jedreport.com/2008/08/judgment-mccain.html

That's right. McCain is asked "if you were President, elected President, would Rumsfeld and Powell be on your team, too?" The Arizona Senator responded "oh, yes, and Cheney." He added "I think this is the strongest team.... as far as national security, that we've ever had."

On February 19, 2007 McCain told over 800 people at a retirement community in South Carolina "I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history." In an interview with Politico the previous month, McCain had charged" the president listened too much to the Vice President . . . Of course, the president bears the ultimate responsibility, but he was very badly served by both the Vice President and, most of all, the Secretary of Defense."

I guess that's what it means to be a "maverick."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Abortion And Saddleback Church- part 2

The issue which most energizes white evangelical voters is abortion, and so it is that Reverend Rick Warren, fresh off his forum at his Saddleback Church, was asked four (4) questions about abortion in the interview he granted with beliefnet.com on July 17, 2008. The very first question posed was


Before last night, McCain had been widely criticized by Christian activists for keeping mum about his faith and about values issues like abortion and marriage Last night seemed to change that. How much headway did McCain make among skeptical evangelicals?

And he responded in part

If they (i.e., evangelicals) think that life begins at conception, then that means that there are 40 million Americans who are not here [because they were aborted] that could have voted. They would call that a holocaust and for them it would like if I'm Jewish and a Holocaust denier is running for office. I don't care how right he is on everything else, it's a deal breaker for me. I'm not going to vote for a Holocaust denier...

Posting on the same site on which the Warren interview appears, Orthodox rabbi Brad Hirschfield notes

to suggest that the debate about when life begins is the same as a debate about whether or not 12 million human beings were murdered by the Nazis is just nuts. Not because one would be nuts to assume that life begins at conception though. It would be nuts because the question of when life begins is a real debate not only among people in America generally, but among Christians who share a commitment to scripture. Does Reverend Warren believe that there is room to debate the factuality of those 12 million dead?

Warren tries to pull a fast one. In asserting abortion is a "holocaust" and then claiming he would not vote for a "Holocaust denier," he a)equates genocide directed against European Jews and the legal option of abortion in a democratic society; and b)implies that those opposed to the present "holocaust" are morally equivalent to the anti-semites who form the core of those denying the WWII-era Holocaust.

One should not use language carelessly. There are a few- very few- words which have a special meaning within the context of American society. These include slavery, which characterized a particular period in U.S. history, ramifications which still plague our society. And it includes holocaust, an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to exterminate the people of a religion which predated, and gave rise to, the dominant religion (Christianity) of this country. Reverend Warren practices a kind of linguistic carelessness that is politically motivated, and vile.






Abortion At Saddlebrook Church, part 1

Following the forum he hosted at his Saddleback Church on August 16, 2008.Reverend Rick Warren recently gave an interesting, and revealing, interview to beliefnet.com on August 17, 2008. He was asked:

When you asked Obama about when life begins, he punted, saying 'it's above my pay grade.' Should someone running for the highest office in the land have a clear answer to that, or is that kind of ambivalence acceptable?

And responded in part:

He should either say, 'No scientifically, I do not believe it's a human being until X' or whatever it is or to say, 'Yes, I believe it is a human being at X point,' whether it's conception or anything else. But to just say 'I don't know' on the most divisive issue in America is not a clear enough answer for me.

Note that Obama did not maintain that determining whether abortion should be legal is "above my pay grade" but rather determining "when life begins." Nonetheless, Reverend Warren charged Obama with disingenuously claiming"'I don't know" on the most divisive issue in America." That issue would be the legal status of abortion rights, not when life begins.

There is a rough consensus among the American people as to when life begins. Belying most national polls, which generally find a pro-choice plurality (however small), most people believe life begins at conception. A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll (the only I could find) taken July15-16, 2003 surveyed registered voters:

“Do you believe that human life begins at conception, or once the baby may be able to survive outside the mother's womb with medical assistance, or when the baby is actually born?”

At conception -55%
Survive outside womb-23%
At birth-13%
Not sure-%

None of these criteria is likely valid from a scientific standpoint. Gregg Easterbrook persuasively wrote in the New Republic article, "Abortion and Brain Waves, on January 31, 2000 "the hopeless confusing viability standard should be dropped in favor of a bright line drawn at the start of the third trimester, when complex fetal brain activity begins." The view that human life as we know it begins "at conception" is the furthest option from this understanding, and yet it is the most common in the country. This could be why Warren asked about the beginning of life- or rather, the even more emotionally charged, and slanted, " Forty million abortions, at what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The McCain Edge At Saddleback

So now we know why John McCain was decisive, forceful, and quick on his feet when he appeared with Reverend Rick Warren at the latter's Saddleback Church in Orange County, California on August 16, 2008. At the beginning of the forum, Reverend Warren assured us:

So you can compare apples to apples. Now, Senator Obama is going to go first. We flipped a coin, and we have safely placed Senator McCain in a cone of silence.

And once McCain did appear:

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Good to be here.
WARREN: My first question, was the cone of silence comfortable you were in just now?
MCCAIN: I was trying to hear through the wall.


Very cute. And very dishonest. Pretending to be enraged at NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell's report that the Obama campaign was saying that McCain had broken the rules, McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis argued the candidate "was in a motorcade to the event and then held in a green room with no broadcast feed.” Inadvertently, Davis had acknowledged that the Repub candidate had not been in a cone of silence, but rather first in a motorcade (where the broadcast could have been communicated to him in any number of ways) and then in a room "with no broadcast feed," where nonetheless content of the broadcast could have been communicated to him in any number of ways.

Appearing on Larry King Live on Monday night, 8/18/08, Reverend Warren was asked "could McCain have heard it (the Obama interview) in the car coming over?" and incredibly replied "not a chance- the Secret Service would have reported it."

Which claim of Warren was less sincere a) that McCain was in "a cone of silence" he either knew he wasn't in or at least could not be certain that he was; or b) claiming that the Secret Service, mistaking its role for that of a babysitter, would have "ratted out" the guy who could be the next President of the United States and leader of the Free World? That's a tough call.
Well Put

A little credit is due Bob Schieffer, host of CBS' Face The Nation. Typically, the talking heads ask a potential vice presidential selection whether he/she is going to be selected or has spoken to the presumptive presidential nominee about joining him on the ticket. And the answer, predictably and inevitably, is noncommittal.

Schieffer, however, took a different tack when on Sunday's (8/17/08) Face The Nation he interviewed Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, reportedly on John McCain's very short list, and Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, reportedly on Barack Obama's very short list. He asked the two, appearing jointly,

Gentlemen, what we've sort of been doing here as a matter of routine with potential running mates is if either of you has been told that you're going to be the nominee, we would certainly like to hear that from you this morning. Or if either of you have said that you've asked that your name be taken out of consideration, I'd like to hear from either of you on that. If not, I won't put you through this dance of how pleased you are to be talked about and all of that, but you can't say. Does anybody have announcement here?

The answer(s)?

Governor TIM PAWLENTY (Republican, Minnesota): I think the senator does.
Senator EVAN BAYH (Democrat, Indiana): Well, we may make news this morning, Bob, but it's not going to be that. So I hate to disappoint you, but nothing to report today.


This is a different and mature inquiry and one to which the response was at least a little bit revealing. There is no way to confirm that Bayh wasn't lying, but his response probably accurately suggested that neither has been told either that he will be selected or that he is out of the running. It seems to have confirmed the common wisdom that as of that (Sunday) morning, both were being seriously considered for the second spot. And the "we may make news this morning.... but not that nothing to report today" was actually a fairly clever and succinct way of making the point.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Abortion At The Forum

Given the particular interest of most white evangelical Christians, it would be inexcusable to let pass comment on the presidential forum staged by Saddleback Church's Rick Warren on August 16 without commenting on the treatment of abortion rights. Warren asked Obama two questions (McCain, only the first) on the topic:

Now, let’s deal with abortion; 40 million abortions since Roe v. Wade. As a pastor, I have to deal with this all of the time, all of the pain and all of the conflicts. I know this is a very complex issue. Forty million abortions, at what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?

Have you ever voted to limit or reduce abortions?

Put aside Warren's remark that there have been "40 million abortions since Roe v. Wade." Assuming that is accurate, it implies that there would have been no abortions had not the Supreme Court in 1973 decided in favor of a woman's right to choose, and that prior to the decision no abortions had taken place. More critically, Rev. Warren asked the emotionally-charged question "at what point does a baby get human rights?" and conveniently- despite invoking the court ruling- neglected to ask either candidate about whether Roe v. Wade was properly decided or should be overturned.

Reverend Warren managed to put Democrat Obama on the spot: how does someone pro-choice answer such a question without sounding somewhat harsh while noting that until the age of majority no young person enjoys full human rights? Even at age 17, in many states an individual cannot drive; drink alcohol; vote; sign most legal contracts; or have an operation without parental consent.

John McCain similarly could have been put on the spot- by being asked about Roe v. Wade, a subject from which conservative Repubs understandably flee. While it's hard to discern a pro-choice or pro-life majority in this country, there clearly is support for Roe v. Wade itself. When the subject is mentioned, Republicans frequently deflect attention from the inquiry; Democrats usually welcome it, especially because it serves as a catalyst for arguing the importance of electing a Democrat so the Court does not overturn its famous ruling.

Initially, I found this lack of balance disappointing. However, now that we learn that John McCain may (contrary to the assurance of Reverend Warren) learned of the questions during Obama's appearance and prior to his own, it is clearly not disappointing, but, instead, predictable.
Saint McCain

The Sunday, 8/17/08 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources started with a fairly lengthy segment speculating on the sex life of a former Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidate from North Carolina. This makes even more ironic, and loathsome, comments made on the next segment- about the presidential forum hosted by Reverend Rick Warren the previous evening at his megachurch in California- about a current Presidential candidate from Arizona. Here is the relevant part of the transcript:

PASTOR RICK WARREN, SR. PASTOR, SADDLEBACK CHURCH: What would be, looking over your life -- everybody's got weaknesses, nobody is perfect -- would be the greatest moral failure in your life? SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I trace this to is a certain selfishness on my part. I was so obsessed with me and, you know, the reasons that I might be dissatisfied, that I couldn't focus on other people. SEN. JOHN McCain (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My greatest moral failing -- and I have been a very imperfect person -- is the failure of my first marriage....

MASON: I don't know. I mean, I think McCain really did something extraordinary the way he answered that question, Howie. He addressed an issue that the campaign has been having a hard time figuring out how to deal with. They've wanted to confront it, it's out there on the Internet, it's something that Democrats are trying to use against McCain. So he put it out there, he acknowledged it. And he sort of inoculated himself against it. I think that's really going to help him. ...

KURTZ: Right. McCain has acknowledged that he was not faithful in his first marriage, but not necessarily before a national television audience.

Howie Kurtz is right! John McCain has acknowledged that he was not faithful in his first marriage, though not before a national television audience. And he still hasn't. The video played by CNN has the Senator saying "My greatest failing- and I have been a very imperfect person- is the failure of my first marriage."

"The failure of my first marriage." The cause of course, McCain did not acknowledge on this telecast, which would suggest that Julie Mason was merely awe-struck when she referred to "something extraordinary the way he answered that question," which the campaign is bravely "trying to confront" which the evil (unnamed) Democrats are "trying to use against McCain."

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I think McCain's behavior during his first marriage is reason 101 of 100 reasons to vote against him. But in a program in which a former presidential candidate (who has admitted his affair) is excoriated, it seems odd to congratulate a current presidential candidate- who has never admitted living nine months with first wife Carol Shepp while dating Cindy Hensley- for acknowledging a failed marriage which is on the record and undeniable.
Bluff and Bluster

John McCain certainly was decisive at the forum hosted by Reverend Rick Warren of Saddleback Church on Saturday evening, August 16. He repeated his talking points with evident conviction, though as befits McCain, he may completely contradict those points, or claim he never made them, within days.

As he has throughout his campaign to gain the Repub nomination for President, McCain tried (and probably succeeded) to convince his audience that he is determined to capture Osama bin Laden. He issues the same vow repeatedly. He was asked:

How about the issue of evil? I asked this of your rival in the previous thing. Does evil exist and if so, should we ignore it, negotiate with it, contain it or defeat it?

He responded:

Defeat it. Couple points, one, if I'm President of the United States, my friends, if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get Osama Bin Laden and bring him to justice. I will do that and I know how to do that.


A little reality check. Here is a portion of a 7/6/08 posting of talk-show host and columnist Michael Smerconish, for whom the issue of terrorists operating out of Pakistan is a paramount issue:

To be sure, the United States should consult Pakistan about such actionable intelligence, Obama told me, but “we shouldn’t need permission to go after folks that killed 3,000 Americans. That’s part of the reason that I’ve been a critic from the start of the war in Iraq. . . . I felt we had a war that we had not finished".....We spoke again April 21. I asked Obama if he was prepared to stop writing the monthly check to Pakistan - payments now exceeding $10 billion. His reply: “Absolutely. [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf was receiving billions of dollars and not doing much with it.

On June 16, I asked John McCain about Obama’s willingness to take action where Pakistan would not.... (and he answered in part) “. . . We have to have the cooperation of Pakistan in order to have these operations succeed,” McCain said. “. . . [I]f you alienate Pakistan, and it turns into an anti-American government, then you will have much greater difficulties.”


This is nothing new. On August 1, 2007- as he did later in debate- the Illinois senator explained "if we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and (Pakistan) president Musharraf won't act, we will." McCain criticized Obama's argument. But this is telling: When Smerconish told McCain that because of this one issue he might vote for the Democratic presidential candidate "for the first time in my life," the Arizona senator replied "Well, then I tell you, my seeking the support of the American people, frankly, is over a lot more issues than that but I understand how important it is to you.”

That's right. This is the guy who admits that economics is not his strong suit but whom the media claim is some sort of foreign policy sage. And he is suggesting the American voter should consider overlooking his position on terrorism emanating from the Persian Gulf. Which raises two questions about John McCain: 1) If he is willing to follow Osama bin Laden to "the gates of hell," why not to Pakistan? and 2) If not national defense, what possible reason is there to vote for him?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Memory Lapses

Writing on the democrats.com blog, a fellow named Bob Fertik argues that John McCain may be in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. He cites the following:

- McCain recent statement "But in the twenty-first century, nations don't invade other nations," an indication he might have forgotten the year 2003:

1)failure to remember key facts, such as: when elections are held, as when he stated "If we do everything right — and we can and we will — I will win in January” and the bifurcation of a nation, as when he stated on 7/14/08 (and similarly the following day) “I was concerned about a couple of steps that the Russian government took in the last several days. One was reducing the energy supplies to Czechoslovakia."

2)forgetting statement(s) he has made, such as:

-on 3/27/08, telling CNN "you and I could walk through those neighborhoods (of Baghdad) today; when told by the network's John Roberts that the latter later was told otherwise by General Petraeus and retired general Barry McCaffrey, McCain replied "“Well, I’m not saying they could go without protection. The President goes around America with protection. So, certainly I didn’t say that";

-stating on 4/21/08 about the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans: "That’s why we need to go back,” he said, “to have a conversation about what to do about it. Rebuild it? Tear it down? Ya know, whatever it is" and three days later claiming “I don’t remember ever saying it;”

-referring to "President Putin of Germany," apparently forgetting that he was referring to Russia;

- after stating "I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated," telling (before being confronted with the video of this statement) the late Tim Russert on Meet The Press "Actually, I don't know where you got that quote from. I'm very well-versed in economics."

- asked whether Saddam Hussein is a threat, stating on CNN on 3/3/02"I believe that Saddam Hussein presents clear and present danger to the United States of America with his continued pursuit of...to acquire weapons of mass destruction" and on MSNBC on 9/17/03 "I never said that it was a, quote, clear and present danger because of weapons of mass destruction."

-according to syndicated columnist, Robert Novak, complained to the Wall Street Journal's John Fund that Justice Samuel Alito "wore his conservatism on his sleeve," then later that day claiming "I don't recall a conversation where I would have said that."

Oops! Fertik posted on August 13, 2008. Now, on August 15, 2008, thanks to thinkprogress.org, we learn that John McCain is still (presumably) forgetful. The previous day, McCain had told Walter Isaacson at the Aspen Institute

I have a long record of that support of alternate energy. … I’ve always been for all of those and I have not missed any crucial vote. But my citizens in Arizona know that when I’m running for the President of the United States I have to be out campaigning.

Except that the Arizona Senator missed : in July, a vote which would have extended wind and solar credits to December and according to New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, "has a perfect record on this renewable energy legislation. He has missed all eight votes over the last year;" in June, a vote on the Lieberman-Warner climate change legislation (co-sponsored, obviously, by arguably McCain's most ardent supporter); in February, a vote (which failed by one) on extending tax credits to renewable sources of energy; in December, a vote (which failed by one) ending tax subsidies for the oil energy and investing in cleaner sources of energy.

Is presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain unusually, and dangerously, forgetful? Or is his dishonesty extraordinarily impressive? You make the call.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Relaxed President

Huffington Post reports (8/14/08) that, after a day of work, President Bush on 8/15/08 would be leaving for his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

That's par for the course for the 43rd President. We all remember the Presidential Daily Briefing of August 6, 2001 with its title "bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US." President Bush's response? As the BBC reported that day, "Washington is turning out the lights for August and Mr Bush is leading the way. For the next month the world's superpower will be run from a farm seven miles down Prairie Chapel Road in Texas."

But it's not only at times of crisis that Bush goes on vacation. As of 8/13/08, the President had been at Crawford or Camp David on 913 days. That's over 130 weeks of vacation. In a little over seven-and-a-half years. Approximately 17 weeks- four months- of vacation a year.

But as these photos from thinkprogress.org indicate, Mr. Bush does know how to have a good time and on the second of the four, appears possibly to have had some liquid refreshment to aid him.

The Associated Press on August 11 described the scene:
At the Olympic baseball stadium, Bush was in the mood to talk sports, not policy. He had just spent time mingling with the Chinese and U.S. baseball teams, and now they were lacing line drives across one of Beijing's pristine Olympic venues....Before the big U.S.-China basketball game, Bush met the players, huddled up, and led them in a one-two-three-USA cheer. He laughed in describing the moment, how high he had to look up to see their faces.

If only Mr. Bush enjoyed leading as much as he does cheerleading, perhaps he would do a little of it sometime.
Grandstanding

The New York Times reports in its online edition of August 14, "Mr. McCain, pressed by reporters, has resisted opportunities to criticize how Mr. Obama has addressed the situation in Georgia."

That's not very difficult when you have surrogates doing the attacking for you. For instance, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who has been traveling around with his hero from Arizona, had this to say at a McCain fundraiser in New Jersey on August 12:

And if you read the statements from the beginning, Senator McCain and Senator Obama, one had kind of moral neutrality to it that comes I think from inexperience.

Moral neutrality? Here is what Barack Obama had said earlier on August 12 about the Russia-Georgia war:

Now is the time for action – not just words. It is past time for the Russian government to immediately sign and implement a cease-fire. Russia must halt its violation of Georgian airspace and withdraw its ground forces from Georgia, with international monitors to verify that these obligations are met.

Do these Repubs (or in Lieberman's case, Repub in spirit and in preference) really think before they talk? Or is it all mere posturing? In case you're not sure, McCain (in)famously blurted out earlier on August 12: "And I told him that I know I speak for every American when I say to him, ' Today, we are all Georgians. "

Senator, I can't speak for your fellow Republicans, but I, for one, am not a Georgian. Though I support Nationalist China, I am not a Taiwanese; and while supporting Israel, I am not an Israeli. I am an American.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Saint McCain

Speaking to reporters on August 13, 2008 and condemning Russia for invading Georgia, John McCain contended "but in the twenty-first century, nations don't invade other nations." Considering the small matter of the U.S.A. invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003, this might strike you as an odd statement, especially coming from the candidate deemed by the mainstream media as the experienced hand in foreign policy. But then, John McCain recently (7/14/08, in town hall meeting in New Mexico, for the third time) recreated Czechoslovakia, apparently unaware it was split into two separate countries in 1993; and prior to that, claimed (3/18/08, to reporters in Amman, Jordan) that Al Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni organization, was being trained by Iran, an aggressively Shiite nation.

If this were any other candidate, given also the Repub's apparent confusion about Social Security (7/9/08, at a town hall meeting in Denver) and birth control (7/9/08, to reporters in Portsmouth, Ohio), the media might start asking whether the fellow is qualified to be President of the United States. But this is John McCain.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Myopia In Beijing

George W. Bush to sportscaster Bob Costas in Beijing on 8/11/08:

First of all I think the Chinese are being great hosts, the venues are fantastic, and our team's fired up and so am I.

Three news items:

On August 11, 2008 five individuals, all members of Students for a Free Tibet, were arrested by police 10 minutes after beginning a protest consisting of one individual "narrating a theatrical street protest in Tianamen Square "as the other four wrapped themselves in Tibetan flags and staged a 'die in.' " This protest was one of three pro-Tibet demonstrations that have produced arrests since the games began.
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Olympic speedskater and leader of a group of Olympic athletes named Team Darfur, Joey Cheeks, has had his visa revoked by the government on the mainland. Cheeks "had planned to attend a United Nations Olympic celebration and some charity events but wasn’t planning any big Team Darfur demonstrations.... One of Cheek’s key initiatives was urging the international community to persuade Sudan to observe the ancient tradition of the Olympic truce during the Beijing Games" to halt the violence which thus far has resulted in the deaths of approximately 200,000, and displacement of 2.5 million, Sudanese.

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The Chinese government, the major importer of Sudanese oil, now apparently is training Sudanese fighter pilots and "supplying arms to Sudan for use in Darfur, in breach of a UN arms embargo."
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President George W. Bush to Bob Costas on 8/11/08:

And my administration has been engaged with both sides in this, trying to get a cease-fire.... It was just interesting to me that here we are, you know trying to promote peace and harmony, and we're witnessing a conflict take place.

Unfortunately, Bush was talking about only Russia v. Georgia (in which the aggressor now has agreed to a cease-fire, its military objectives met). GWB's attitude toward the regime in Beijing? "We were honored yesterday, when the President, Hu Jintao, invited my dad, and me, and Laura, and my sister, and my daughter, my brother, for dinner or lunch. It was a great gesture of kindness...."

Appeasement, Bush-style.
The Power Of "O"

Craig Garthwaite and Tim Moore of the Department of Economics at the University of Maryland have prepared a study to determine the impact of Oprah Winfrey's endorsement in May, 2007 of Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination for president.

Garthwaite and Moore reviewed areas with high per-capita circulation of Oprah magazine and of high per-capita sales of books in Oprah's Book Club, reasonably assuming that those are areas in which the talk-show host is most popular. They controlled for various other factors and developed several mathematical models. Analyzing both the effect on voter share and on participation, they concluded that the votes for other candidates "slightly increased" as a result of the endorsement and that the effect on voter participation is greater than that on voter share. Turnout increased by approximately 2,196,300 out of a total of 33,386,184 votes cast. (Forty-five states and the District of Columbia were studied- excluded were Michigan, in which Obama and a few other candidates were not on the ballot; Florida, in which alll candidates agreed not to campaign; Kansas, North Dakota, and Alaska , which do not report county-level voter information; and Texas, in which one can vote in a primary and/or caucus, "creating different incentives in voting behavior.")

But as for the main conclusion: the academics concluded that Winfrey's endorsement "was responsible" for 1,015,559 (net) votes for Obama, with a 95% chance that the effect was from 423,123 to 1,596,995.

One million-plus votes out of a total of thirty-three million-plus votes may not sound like that much. But it was extraordinary and, arguably, pivotal in a race won by the now-presumptive nominee by far fewer than one million votes (and won only if Michigan and Florida are not counted, truly a bizarre calculation given that the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the DNC eventually imparted legitimacy to the vote by accepting partial allocation of their delegates). And in the 45 jurisdictions included in the study, Obama gained only 278,966 votes more than chief rival Clinton.

Unfortunately (given the candidates), the researchers argue that the impact of an endorsement is significantly smaller in a general election than in a primary contest, inasumuch as in the latter (and especially in this contest), the ideological positions of the candidates differ relatively little, with voters more concerned with policy positions in the general.

Still, being responsible for the votes of over one million Americans- far more than any other endorsement could be- is truly impressive and remarkable testimony to the influence of America's paramount celebrity. No surprise, though, that John McCain chose to try to tie Barack Obama to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears rather than the woman known by her first name and, to herself, "O."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Divorced From Reality

Down: stock market; job creation; home values; home sales; retail sales; real income.
Up: mortgage foreclosures; energy costs; inflation; corporate bankruptcies; outsourcing of American jobs; trade deficit; budget deficit

President Bush to Bob Costas on August 11, 2008 at the Olympic Games in Beijing, China: "First of all, I don't see America having problems...."

George W. Bush is no more concerned about the economic well-being of the American people than he is about terrorism.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Corporate America and Red China: Perfect Together

Sean Hannity is fond of referring to Michelle Obama as someone who "hates America." I wonder what he would say about two "American " companies and their approach to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. Dave Zirin, a regular contributor to The Nation magazine and author of the forthcoming book "A People's History of Sports in the United States," explained on 8/8/08 to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

Pepsi has adopted a new red can with the slogan “Go Red, Go Pepsi.” I mean, it’s a slogan that would have gotten you a visit from COINTELPRO a generation ago, and now it’s being used to sell Pepsi products over there in China. I mean, absolutely outrageous.
Nike—this is another brilliant so-called US-based corporation—is airing commercials in China where Chinese track superstar, Liu Xiang, is beating Western athletes in the race, and it says, “Go Beijing! Go Liu Xiang!"


Will Sean find his voice and criticize these anti-American mega-companies? Will any GOP politician who has been critical of the comments made by Mrs. Obama? Or is criticism of corporations off-limits in the Republican world, where the rich and powerful are sacrosanct?
Just Another Priority

Suppose you have been concerned: over the rise of terrorism in the Gulf as a result of our invasion of Iraq; the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan/Pakistan, with the growing strength of Al Qaeda in northwestern Pakistan; inadequate inspection of shipping containers entering the United States; or with apparent partisan political considerations in hiring practices at the Department of Justice. Suppose, in other words, that the priority placed by the Bush Administration on combatting terrorism has you concerned.

Nevertheless, you are reminded again by Repub politicians that there has been no terrorist attack inside the United States since September 11, 2001. Perhaps you're almost convinced.

But don't be. A posting of 8/8/08 by Jonathan Schwarz on the site thismodernworld.com links to the interview of the previous day on National Public Radio's "Fresh Air" of Ron Suskind, author most recently of "The Way of the World." Here Schwarz's excerpt of the interview, in which President Bush's reaction and response to the British investigation of terrorists in 2006 is described:



NPR: I want to talk just a little about this fascinating episode you describe in the summer of 2006, when President Bush is very anxious about some intelligence briefings that he is getting from the British. What are they telling him?

SUSKIND: In late July of 2006, the British are moving forward on a mission they’ve been–an investigation they’ve been at for a year at that point, where they’ve got a group of “plotters,” so-called, in the London area that they’ve been tracking…Bush gets this briefing at the end of July of 2006, and he’s very agitated. When Blair comes at the end of the month, they talk about it and he says, “Look, I want this thing, this trap snapped shut immediately.” Blair’s like, “Well, look, be patient here. What we do in Britain”–Blair describes, and this is something well known to Bush–”is we try to be more patient so they move a bit forward. These guys are not going to breathe without us knowing it. We’ve got them all mapped out so that we can get actual hard evidence, and then prosecute them in public courts of law and get real prosecutions and long prison terms”…

Well, Bush doesn’t get the answer he wants, which is “snap the trap shut.” And the reason he wants that is because he’s getting all sorts of pressure from Republicans in Congress that his ratings are down. These are the worst ratings for a sitting president at this point in his second term, and they’re just wild-eyed about the coming midterm elections. Well, Bush expresses his dissatisfaction to Cheney as to the Blair meeting, and Cheney moves forward.

NPR: So you got the British saying, “Let’s carefully build our case. Let’s get more intelligence.” Bush wants an arrest and a political win. What does he do?

SUSKIND: Absolutely. What happens is that then, oh, a few days later, the CIA operations chief–which is really a senior guy. He’s up there in the one, two, three spots at CIA, guy named Jose Rodriguez ends up slipping quietly into Islamabad, Pakistan, and he meets secretly with the ISI, which is the Pakistani intelligence service. And suddenly a guy in Pakistan named Rashid Rauf, who’s kind of the contact of the British plotters in Pakistan, gets arrested. This, of course, as anyone could expect, triggers a reaction in London, a lot of scurrying. And the Brits have to run through the night wild-eyed and basically round up 25 or 30 people. It’s quite a frenzy. The British are livid about this. They talk to the Americans. The Americans kind of shrug, “Who knows? You know, ISI picked up Rashid Rauf.”

NPR: So the British did not even get a heads-up from the United States that this arrest was going to happen?

SUSKIND: Did not get a heads-up. In fact, the whole point was to mislead the British…The British did not know about it, frankly, until I reported it in the book…
What’s interesting is that the White House already had its media plan already laid out before all of this occurred so that the president and vice president immediately–even, in Cheney’s case, before the arrest, the day before–started to capitalize on the war on terror rhetoric and political harvest, which of course they used for weeks to come, right into the fall, about, “The worst plot since 9/11, that has been foiled, and this is why you want us in power.”



To summarize: by July of 2006 the White House has developed a scheme to maximize political advantage for the GOP in the upcoming fall elections, by exploiting arrest of plotters across the ocean to convince voters to keep his party in power. That month, Prime Minister Blair visits President Bush and advises the American president that the British are methodically moving on this group of plotters in the London area so as to gather sufficient evidence and prosecute the individuals most effectively. Mr. Bush is not pleased and voila!: a few days later a CIA agent meets secretly with the Pakistani intelligence service, which then arrests the guy who is the contact in Pakistan for the British plotters. Angry, the British are left with with no option than suddenly one night to zip around and arrest, prematurely, 25-30 individuals.

Yes, President Bush is concerned with terrorism. It has been one of his highest priorities, after overthrowing the dictator in Iraq who bedeviled his father; expanding the power of the Executive Branch over American citizens; establishing corporate control of the country; producing electoral gains for the Repub party; and a few other things. We can be thankful we haven't been hit in this country in almost seven years- but it is in spite of, rather than because of, GWB.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Saint McCain

There is no sense of shame or of irony in the Washington press corps. Consider these two comments about John Edwards (fresh off admission of extramarital affair with his campaign's videographer, Rielle Hunter) on Friday, August 8. The first is from David Gregory on "Race For The White House" and the second from Anderson Cooper on AC 360:

"With this hanging over Obama as kind of a skeleton in the Democratic closet...."

"There aren't many politicians who have an affair and then choose to run for President of the United States."

Now consider this report from latimes.com about the relationship of Ronald and Nancy Reagan with a famous senator from Arizona:

In a written statement, she described McCain as "a good friend for over 30 years." But that friendship was strained in the late 1970s by McCain's decision to divorce his first wife, Carol, who was particularly close to the Reagans, and within weeks marry Cindy Hensley, the young heiress to a lucrative Arizona beer distributorship.The Reagans rushed to help Carol, finding her a new home in Southern California with the family of Reagan aide Edwin Meese III and a series of political and White House jobs to ease her through that difficult time.McCain, who is about to become the GOP nominee, has made several statements about how he divorced Carol and married Hensley that conflict with the public record.

In his 2002 memoir, "Worth the Fighting For," McCain wrote that he had separated from Carol before he began dating Hensley."I spent as much time with Cindy in Washington and Arizona as our jobs would allow," McCain wrote. "I was separated from Carol, but our divorce would not become final until February of 1980."

An examination of court documents tells a different story. McCain did not sue his wife for divorce until Feb. 19, 1980, and he wrote in his court petition that he and his wife had "cohabited" until Jan. 7 of that year -- or for the first nine months of his relationship with Hensley.

Although McCain suggested in his autobiography that months passed between his divorce and remarriage, the divorce was granted April 2, 1980, and he wed Hensley in a private ceremony five weeks later. McCain obtained an Arizona marriage license on March 6, 1980, while still legally married to his first wife.

Anderson Cooper must know of this. He must have heard that John McCain and Cindy Hensley dated for nine months while John was married to his first wife.

This does not- not by a long shot- disqualify John McCain for the presidency, and the extramarital affair occurred twenty years before Mr. McCain first ran for the Repub nomination for president, unlike McCain's recent effort to have Cindy participate in a semi-nude beauty pageant (pickle competition optional, presumably). But it does demonstrate that David Gregory lacks perspective and Anderson Cooper, objectivity. And the sexual instincts of a politician who is not a United States Senator and will not be President of the United States apparently are less newsworthy than those of a United States Senator who might become president.... when that man is John McCain.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A Reasonable Proposal

On Barack Obama's official website, we read his proposal on taxation of elderly people under the category "Strengthen Retirement Savings":

Eliminate Income Taxes for Seniors Making Less Than $50,000: Obama will eliminate all income taxation of seniors making less than $50,000 per year. This will provide an immediate tax cut averaging $1,400 to 7 million seniors and relieve millions from the burden of filing tax returns.

A website called taxfoundation.org asserts about Obama's claim that this change in the tax code would "relieve millions from the burden of filing tax returns":

As for not making seniors file a tax return if their incomes are below $50,000, it sounds like it may make the the tax system simpler, but many seniors would still have to do much of the work involved in determing whether their incomes are above $50,000 due to the multiple income sources they often have, such as capital gains, dividends, Social Security, retirement pensions, etc., even if they didn't have to officially file with the IRS.

So the Obama plan probably wouldn't cut down on paperwork as much as he maintains. Still, the nub of the proposal is eliminating all income taxes for senior citizens making under $50,000 per year. Taxfoundation argues "why should seniors receive special tax treatment anyway? Why should a 35-year old single person making $40,000 in wage income have to pay more in taxes than a senior who lives off $40,000 of retirement income (assuming it wasn't previously taxed)?"

A legitimate question- but easily answered. There are two reasons: 1) the elderly still would be paying property taxes, a tremendous burden for (mostly middle-class) old persons; and 2) as the elderly get more elderly, they often need at-home care which is not covered by Medicare; in old-age facilities, once private income is exhausted, the only option is Medicaid. This is not ideal given that Medicaid: a) as a government program, is financed itself by taxes and b) as an income-sensitive program, bears an obvious resemblance to a welfare program. Medicaid is necessary- but society has an interest in helping senior citizens avoid it, and if maximization of their net income is one way to that end.

This is not a wash- Obama is on to something important. Perhaps John McCain also would support ending income taxes for senior citizens of modest incomes- but we may never know, inasmuch as his official website omits any mention whatsoever of the economic plight of elderly people. You're not surprised about that, are you?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Nod To His Friends

Tough, macho, swaggering George W. Bush, in Thailand today on the first of three stops on his Asian tour. He said, with little courage,

Change in China will arrive on its own terms and in keeping with its own history and traditions. Yet change will arrive.

Change will eventually come- on the regime's "own terms and in keeping with its own history and traditions." Sometime, and in ways inoffensive to the world's largest dictatorship, a proud Communist tyranny.

In its 7/9/08 newstand edition, the editors of The New Republic note that President Bill Clinton also thought change would come to Mainland China. They quote the then-President predicting "when over 100 million people in China can get on the Net, it will be impossible to maintain a closed political and economic society."

They explain

How convenient for a president to argue that he needn't look out for American principles abroad because technology would do the job for him. History, of course, has made a mockery of this sentiment: Today, there are more than 220 million Chinese online, and the country is little closer to political freedom.

The Chinese government did not embark on a period of reform upon the prediction of the 42nd president, and it won't do so upon the hope of the current president. Especially when the Butchers of Beijing will be honored with the presence of the President of the United States and leader of the Free World.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Again, Our Failed President

There is important news coming out of the book "Way of the World" written by investigative journalist Ron Suskind, published on August 5, 2008. Suskind reports that the White House ordered George Tenet's CIA to forge a letter (first "revealed" in 12/03) from Saddam Hussein's intelligence chief, Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, and politico.com quotes the author:

The White House had concocted a fake letter from Habbush to Saddam, backdated to July 1, 2001. It said that 9/11 ringleader Mohammad Atta had actually trained for his mission in Iraq – thus showing, finally, that there was an operational link between Saddam and al Qaeda, something the Vice President’s Office had been pressing CIA to prove since 9/11 as a justification to invade Iraq. There is no link.

Suskind writes also that, prior to the invasion, an unnamed, top Iraqi intelligence official informed the CIA that there were no "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq.

There have been denials all around but Suskind assured Keith Olberman on 8/5/08 that his interviews were taped.

It seems, therefore, that the Bush Administration was unsure about the existence of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq and that intelligence was rigged to demonstrate a link between the 9/11 hijackers and Saddam Hussein. And Suskind believes that GW Bush thus may have committed an impeachable offense by violating a statute prohibiting the CIA from conducting covert operations “intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies or media.”

Suskind makes other interesting points, including one about an American President whom, you may recall, on July 16, 2001 at a press conference gushed about former KGB agent Vladimir Putin

I very much enjoyed our time together. He's an honest, straightforward man who loves his country. He loves his family. We share a lot of values. I view him as a remarkable leader. I believe his leadership will serve Russia well.

And who a few minutes later in response to a question said something even more idiotic:

I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.

Politico reports that Suskind writes:

In the first days of his presidency, Bush rejected advice from the CIA to wiretap Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2001 in Vienna, where he was staying in a hotel where the CIA had a listening device planted in the wall of the presidential suite, in need only of a battery change...."The CIA had warned him that Putin “was a trained KGB agent … [who] wants you to think he’s your friend.”

From Truman to Bush 41, Democrat and Republican, nine American Presidents served during the Cold War and contributed to bringing down the Iron Curtain. Fortunately, George W. Bush did not occupy the Oval Office during that period. I hear Russian is a difficult language to learn.
Keep This Man Away From The Web!

It's one thing to be proud of one's wife, but not in the manner of offering her up for a beauty pageant (video is of the bikini competition), as John McCain did at the Miss Buffalo Chip Pageant. And so it was that at the annual motorcyle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota John McCain read from a prepared script:

I was looking at the Sturgis schedule, and noticed that you had a beauty pageant, so I encouraged Cindy to compete. I told her [that] with a little luck, she could be the only woman to serve as both the First Lady and Miss Buffalo Chip.

Jim Caples at espn.com paints a provocative picture of the pageant:

Buffalo Chip has a reputation for that sort of thing. It holds a Miss Buffalo Chip contest every night, which is essentially a topless beauty pageant. And occasionally bottomless, too. During a drenching rain Wednesday night, the contest broke up into smaller groups and one woman wound up dancing naked on a bar top. Her boyfriend/husband saw her and angrily dragged her away as she struggled to put her pants back on and muttered something about how, "It's only this one week a year."

There is much consternation in liberal blogs that John McCain has little familiarity with the Internet. There should not be.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Clinton Defends Himself

It would be presumptuous for me to give Bill Clinton, whom the media was given to describing as among the greatest Democratic politicians alive, political advice. But the man whose reputation for extraordinary political instincts took a nosedive around, oh, the 2008 South Carolina primary has lost a little off his fastball.

In an interview on 8/3/08 with ABC News' Kate Snow, Clinton 42 was asked "Do you personally have any regrets about what you did, campaigning for your wife?" He responded, inelegantly

Yes, but not the ones you think. And it would be counterproductive for me to talk about. There are things that I wish I'd urged her to do. Things I wish I'd said. Things I wish I hadn't said. But I am not a racist. I've never made a racist comment and I never attacked him [Obama] personally.

As any Republican can tell you, when in doubt attack the messenger. Clinton here just appears to be defensive when the least he could have done would have been to respond to Snow's question by asking "What specifically did you have in mind?"

Instead, the former President only reminded me of another former President, the fellow who at the height of Watergate asserted not "I am not a racist" but "I am not a crook." And while Clinton probably isn't a racist (the statement therefore being true), neither was Nixon lying: he arguably was not "a crook," not having been convicted of a criminal offense, and thanks to President Gerald Ford's despicable and destructive pardon, never was.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Vile Joe Lieberman

It's a little hard to remember that Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman was thought of as a man of integrity when he was selected by Al Gore in 2000 to be the latter's running mate.

Some integrity. On today's Meet The Press, Lieberman and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry argued about Iraq and specifically, the "surge." Here is the majority, and the relevant part (pp. 2-3 of transcript), of the repartee:

But let me come back to Iraq. On the surge, Joe and John McCain have both alleged that the surge created the "Anbar awakening." It did not. The Anbar awakening began in 2005 and 2006. One of the local leaders in a tribe in Anbar province, a fellow named Abdul Sattar al-Rishawi put together some 32 sheiks who came together. They organized what was called the Anbar Salvation Council. They then went out and took on al-Qaeda, and our military personnel adjusted with that at the time. The fact is that the Ramadi construction conference took place, and the administration didn't get a troop in there till after they'd made the political decision to become involved with the Americans. The surge added to that. If you add American troops to the equation, American troops can always provide some measure of security.

MR. BROKAW: Many people believe it wouldn't have been possible for it to be as successful as it was without the surge, however.

SEN. KERRY: I, I, I, I...

SEN. LIEBERMAN: It, it would not have been. It simply would not have been. I mean...

SEN. KERRY: But, but what's the precondition...

SEN. LIEBERMAN: John, in saying this...

SEN. KERRY: Joe, let me finish.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I know you don't intend this...

SEN. KERRY: Let me just finish. Let me just finish.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: ...but in saying this, you're showing disrespect for the contribution and service and sacrifice...

SEN. KERRY: No, I just--excuse me.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: ...of the American soldiers because the...

SEN. KERRY: No, you just cut me off when I was saying our soldiers did an extraordinary job.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well please, answer to that, because the awakening would not have gone forward without the strength and support that Colonel McFarland...

SEN. KERRY: Which I was just saying.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: ...the Army, the Marines gave them.

SEN. KERRY: Which I was in the middle of saying when you interrupted me.


To summarize: Kerry argued that the surge only contributed to an improved situation in Iraq, to which Lieberman responded: "But in saying this, you're showing disrepect for the contribution and service and sacrifice...." (i.e., of the American soldiers).

How can you recognize a Democrat who is opposed to Bush's policy on Iraq? If he/she begins by praising the troops, pushes for greater benefits for returning and retired soldiers, and wants to begin an orderly, phased withdrawal, shielding American soldiers from unnecessary risk. And Joe Lieberman, as he has before, will again accuse Democrats of hating the servicemen and servicewomen and infer treason to war opponents.
Race, Polling, Fibbing

In an article in the Wall Street Journal of 8/2/08, Ellen Gamerman writes of efforts researchers make to determine the extent of bias in response to survey questions. To determine whether people commonly lie, various techniques have been employed: use of a computer; use of a computer avatar named Victoria (two varieties: one with various gestures, one who stares blankly); placement of responses at various points on a computer screen (testing their "Good Is Up" theory); asking a control question; asking the respondent, at the end of the interview, what race he/she believes the interviewer belongs to.

Such studies are particularly relevant in the context of this presidential election, given that one of the two major candidates is black. Gamerman reports

Peter Hart, a Democrat on a bipartisan team conducting the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, estimates that 10% of current Democrats and independents who say they support presumed Democratic Party nominee Barack Obama may not be giving a fully honest answer, at least based on their responses to broader questions about race.

I suppose Republicans are not even pretending they're going to vote for the Democratic nominee. Anyway, this suggests the "Bradley Effect," a (untested) theory developed to explain the loss of Thomas Bradley in the 1982 California gubernatorial race after pre-election, and exit, polls showed him ahead.

I'm sure the Obama and McCain teams have pondered this factor and its possible effect (which I don't believe is primarily due to racism). But.... there are two other critieria which may work in the opposite direction, possibly giving Obama a greater percentage of the vote than polls prior to the election would indicate. They are:

- the likely unprecedented turnout of blacks;
- the turnout of the increasing number of individuals, primarily the young, who use only cell phones, eschewing land-line phones, and thus not reachable in polling done by phone.

Blacks, obviously, will be voting overwhelmingly for Obama; youth generally, less so, but still solidly. And I suspect the number of young people who rely on cell phones who vote for McCain, who only recently was introduced to the Internet and gives something of the appearance of a technological troglodyte, will be tiny.

So ask yourself these questions: 1) How often have reports of surveys explained to what extent the researchers are accounting for the greater percentage of blacks in this electorate than ever before in a presidential election? (answer: not often); 2) How often have reports of surveys explained whether the researcher is accounting for individuals who have no land-line phone? (answer: less often). Which helps explain why these polls measuring support for McCain v. Obama probably explain very little, and perhaps why their results so radically differ from each other.

Presidential Failure

Asked on the Overtime segment on Bill Maher's Real Time, "so, Van, Steve, do you think the media should change the way it co...